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ROGERS -- A University of Arkansas program that provides entry-level and advanced training for information technology jobs will continue its work and add courses with a $924,000 grant from the state, a school official said Wednesday.

The Arkansas Department of Higher Education gave the two-year award to the university's Global Campus IT Readiness Initiative, which has offered courses at its Rogers location since 2015. The grant was among more than $14 million the department gave to similar programs on robotics and other types of technology training throughout the state, according to its website.

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For more information on the University of Arkansas Global Campus’s IT Readiness program, go to training.uark.edu/it-readiness.

The initiative started with the department's help as a kind of bootcamp in website and mobile development at reduced cost to students, said Tara Dryer, Global Campus director of training, corporate development and academic outreach. Those basics are still offered, along with new courses in artificial intelligence and Amazon web service for people with more experience.

"The program is intended for literally anybody to come in and start with the basics and get all the way through to an entry-level position" in the industry, Dryer said. Local listings offer more than $70,000 for web developer jobs and other tech posts, according to the initiative's grant application.

Tech jobs are growing in almost every industry, according to the Northwest Arkansas Council, a nonprofit group which includes many of the region's biggest employers and aims to improve the area's economy and quality of life. The council's three-year regional plan, released Tuesday, calls for training and turning out more technology specialists to fill more than 2,000 expected local job openings in the coming decade.

"They're out there in large numbers, and they're only going to grow -- and grow in importance," said Mike Harvey, the council's chief operating officer. "This job can be done pretty much anywhere," he added of information technology work, so programs like the university's can help make the case that such jobs should stay here.

Companies such as Walmart and CaseStack, a national logistics company with a Fayetteville office, work with IT Readiness to put together its curriculum and stay up to the date with industry needs, Dryer said. They will also sometimes send employees for training there. Other students come right after high school or later in life looking for a different career.

Courses range from a week to six months or so, with schedules letting participants keep working. Dryer said the cost for the entry-level, six-month course is about $1,000 with payment options available in order to be open to anyone.

A university news release on the latest Department of Higher Education grant said 40 people have earned entry-level certificates so far with another 22 expected to finish this summer. More than 70 others have attended the more advanced workshops.

Dryer said the program keeps classes small to give one-on-one instruction in what can be a complicated topic, but she also wants the program to grow.

"All it'd take is getting the word out," she said. "We're just super excited that it's already made an impact."

DataScout in Fayetteville is another of the initiative's corporate partners and provides data analysis and mapping services, including for local assessors' offices. Morgan Smith, the company's IT director, said he's talked with the school about what skills the area needs and has been impressed by its courses.

Programs such as the university's could help smaller firms like DataScout find the people they need even with Walmart and other titans grabbing the lion's share of specialists, Smith added.

"Next time we're looking for a hire, they're definitely someone we would consider reaching out to," he said.

NW News on 07/12/2018

Print Headline: Grant to keep IT training running

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